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How To Reduce Training Friction For Today's Employees

Corey Bleich
6 min read

Every employee needs training, but many will unfortunately resist it because of time or other factors. Here’s how you can reduce training friction so your employees get the information they need to do their jobs successfully.

What causes training friction?

The push-pull between what executives need their employees to know and how employees respond to different training methods may be a holdover from the early days of corporate training. Unfortunately during this time, too often employees suffered through dull, company-wide training that did not apply to their daily work.

Fast-forward to today when we have multiple training options that can be used when and where employees have the time, but the resistance is sometimes still the same. Is it possible to forget the past and reduce training friction for today’s employees while getting them the training and the tools they need to do their job? We think so.

The future of employee training

In his article “A New Paradigm For Corporate Training: Learning In The Flow of Work,” Josh Bersin traces the evolution of corporate training from slide projectors and CD-ROMs with static information delivered in a sterile conference room to what he refers to as “learning in the flow of work.”

This change began to take shape when Google smashed the idea that only certain expert people had access to information. With the introduction of this powerful search engine, people all over the globe had access to nearly unlimited information.

Bersin points out that this unlimited information intrigued employees and changed their behavior outside of work. He notes:

“…what did employees do? They went out to the consumer internet and found some amazing new learning experiences. Companies like ]Khan] Academy, Lynda.com, and YouTube became far easier places to learn, and employees flocked to them by the millions.”

Always-on learning opportunities

Sites like YouTube and Khan Academy and are learning tools disguised as entertainment. When you want to know how to troubleshoot problems with your drivers on your laptop or design a floorplan for a shed, YouTube has thousands of short videos that can teach you. These videos are relevant, engaging, and straight to the point. The sites are easy to navigate and, because they generate income through engagement (clicks), the goal is to keep people on the site as long as possible.

Bersin points out that while this approach is great for life outside of work:

“[in] learning the problem is different. We don’t want people to be ‘addicted’ to the learning platform, we want them to learn something, apply it, and then go back to work…the more urgent and consequential applications of learning are tips, recommendations, suggestions, and tools that help us get better at our jobs.”

So here we have this amazing tool – short, informative videos – that are proven effective at delivering just-in-time learning experiences for the people who use them. What does this mean for your employees?

In short, learning in the flow of work – that is, taking two minutes to watch a video on a relevant, applicable skill – solves the number one cause of friction for today’s employees: not enough time for training.

At EdgePoint Learning, we take these insights into learning in the flow of work and apply them to making better learning opportunities for today’s employees. Here’s some of the aspects you can consider when building your own learning programs.

Make better time, not more time, for training

Consider that in 2015, the average employee spent a mere 24 minutes in training a week. Fast-forward just three years to LinkedIn’s latest survey of over 4,000 business professionals. In dissecting the challenges of workplace learning, LinkedIn found that:

“Getting employees to make more time for learning was the #1 challenge [employers] cited, and among the learners who responded, 58% want to learn at their own pace and 49% want to learn in the flow of work.”

CEOs want employees to make time for more training; employees want better training that meets their needs, on their own time and in their own way. From an employee standpoint, Bersin points out that LinkedIn’s results are in line with other research:

“This…is totally consistent with the latest research from O’Reilly, which also finds that approximately 50% of all learning interactions from their technical community…is for ‘in the moment of need’ technical support. These are people who understand the basics of their jobs but want pinpoint information, technical answers, code snippets, or quick answers to questions they face right now.”

If you dig into adult learning theory, this expressed need for relevant, applicable training that is delivered when employees need it and meets them where they are is the best way to:

  • Reduce training friction
  • Generate buy-in
  • Raise the skill (and happiness) level of employees

Indeed, according to LinkedIn, “…94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.”

Meet employees where they already are

Employees are already on these learning platforms, accessing them all day long from their laptops, smartphones, and tablets. At work, employees want to develop the tools and skills to do their jobs more effectively.

CEOs and managers want skilled, knowledgeable, highly adaptable employees. Even for mid-level employees, technology is shifting in such a way that training is a necessary part of onboarding (and ongoing employee development).

It seems that both of these goals are clearly aligned. Employees want training and employers want them to have it. So where’s the friction? Clearly, it is no longer effective to remove an employee from their job for a period of time to complete a training module. Learning in the flow of work, as Bersin points out, is the solution to this friction.

Although the phrase “learning in the flow of work” is relatively new (coined by Bersin), the idea of experiential learning goes back to the days when an apprentice worked side-by-side with a master (and more formally to John Dewey in the early part of the 20th century), immediately applying and refining skills on the job.

The idea that learning new skills by practicing them when they are needed dovetails nicely with the modern adult’s need for autonomy and immersive training. There is no separation between the job and the learning.

Bring in a broad range of training tools, not just one-hour lectures

These days, microlearning is the connected piece that smooths the friction between needed skills and employee’s time. With microlearning, you integrate training into the job instead of treating the job and the training as separate.

Consider these examples of microlearning in action:

  • Employees log on to their workspace in the morning to a two-minute video update on changes to industry trends that occurred overnight or last month’s overview of regulatory updates

  • On a jobsite, a link accessed via smartphone delivers schematics or instructions on accessing an area when an employee needs it

  • After a customer service call, a quick check in to clarify terms or processes in the form of a .pdf pops up on an employee’s laptop

There is still a need for long-form macro-learning courses that provide employees with the time and space to dive deeper into specialized information. But the days of relying on these long-form courses to cover all of your employees’ training needs are coming to an end.

At EdgePoint Learning, we believe that learning in the flow of work reduces friction and provides your employees with the tools they need to do their job. Let us help you get started. Get in touch today.

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